The Survival Connection By Keith H. Burgess.
I will tell you a little about our group, who we are and what we do. Firstly we are an 18th century living history group, called the New England Colonial Living History Group 1680-1760. I started this group some 30 odd years ago, and we have an online presence in our official forum. Living History is about interpreting and recreating past lifestyles, a little like Historical Re-enactment, except that we do not generally put on displays for the public and we go into the skills & equipment far deeper than the re-enactors do, and we emulate common personas in everyday situations rather than just military as re-enactors tend to do.
Part of our activities is Experimental Archaeology. That is the using of equipment, clothing & foods to establish exactly how an item was used. Sometimes this involves actually making that item. This can be anything from making fire in a primitive or period manner, to building a ship & sailing it on a trade route. Now there is another side that has been added known as Experiential Archaeology, which is the continuing use of the skills that we learn in experiments. We only wear period correct clothing, and we only use period correct equipment.
Not so much in Australia’s colonial past, but more in the New World colonial past, life was all about survival for those colonists who chose to live in the wilderness. They had to find or make some of their own tools, they had to often travel on foot to their destination carrying these tools and other supplies. On the way and once there they had to deal with the threat posed by natives and criminals. Everyone who was strong enough to hold and aim a gun was expected to know how to shoot. Plus there were a host of other skills needed to construct a dwelling, grow and hunt for food and to complete certain chores.
Now it does not take a total genius to realise that the above situation is very much in line with our needs as modern survivalists. All the more so because modern equipment rarely teaches us anything other than this is a throw-away society that we live in. Where as primitive equipment teaches us much about flora, fauna and our environment. A typical example would be the difference between using the “real” flint and steel method of fire lighting that has been in use for hundreds of years, and using a ferocerium rod. Many people do not learn about plant tinders when using the ferocerium rod, or the difference between plant tinders and kindling. Making fire in the rain can be difficult with a ferocerium rod, but not with a flint and steel. The skills learnt by using the flint and steel extend to the making and use of the fire-bow, flintlock fire lighting and reading glass fire lighting.
With the 18th century knapsack and contents I carry, along with other simple tools, I can survive a lifetime in the wilderness. Can a modern survivalist with what is considered mostly camping equipment claim the same? I very much doubt it. So what we have in 18th century living history is tried equipment and primitive skills. But it gives us something else that is of the utmost importance in survival, and that is a reasonable level of comfort. I will gladly admit that most of what I carry on my person is for comfort and not necessarily required for my survival. I can survive without carrying any equipment with me into a wilderness, but it is a very hard life until one manages to make a collection of primitive tools to make life easier, and even then we are talking about a Palaeolithic lifestyle.
By carrying 18th century equipment combined with the period and primitive skills, I can at least guarantee that my level of comfort will never drop below that level. Where as if I were to carry only modern clothing and equipment, slowly over time as items failed to work or broke and clothing wore out, I would be cast into a very primitive lifestyle regardless of the skills I may have learnt over time. If I were using a modern firearm it too may have ceased to function, or I may have simply run out of ammunition. Those using modern compound bows would be no better off, as these tools require special arrows, bow strings and parts.
However, do not think that I am totally against the use of modern technology; I believe that if we are able to carry some modern items as well as our period gear, then that would be an added advantage. The more people you have, the more you can take with you, but if I have to leave something behind, it will be the modern firearms etc that will in time break down and constitute a lot of weight for little gain. Modern medicine is an absolute must carry, despite what you may know about primitive methods and herbal use. Regardless of what you carry, you must keep one thing in mind. There must be a compromise between maximum self-reliance, and minimum weight.
If you have to leave the city or if you are forced from your bush retreat, you will need to make the right choice of equipment the first time. You may never get a chance to correct any mistakes, so choose wisely. IF you are serious about preparing for survival, and for you this is not just a game or a pastime, then you need to forget about looking like someone in the military. The military always has relied on back-up supplies and equipment. You, we, will NOT have that option. Whatever we take with us must be practicle, hard wearing and last us the rest of our lives.
Our group's forum. Anyone is welcome to join. http://eighteenthcenturylivinghistory.freeforums.org/
My 18th Century Blog: http://woodsrunnersdiary.blogspot.com.au/